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Friday, 26 October 2012

Police chief pledges to root out discrimination. But 'mistrusting' Andover estate teenagers still claim they face racist taunts from officers

Islington Tribune

Andover estate teenagers. From left, Noah Naizehi, Jack Biggs, Jamain Gordon, Gerald Dinnegan and James Aidoo

Published: 26 October, 2012

YOUNG people on the Andover estate have accused police of discriminating against them.

But the borough’s police commander, Gerry Campbell, has said “there is no place for racist police officers in the Met” and has pledged to stamp down hard if any allegations are proved to be true.

A group of young men who spoke to the Tribune this week about their hopes and ambitions, said “mistrust” had built up between police and young people on the Upper Holloway estate after a series of racist incidents.
They also spoke about “postcode discrimination” they face from employers.

Gerald Dinnegan, 17, Noah Naizehi, 18, Jack Biggs, 18, and Jamain Gordon, 17, attend activities run by youth support service The Eden Network at St Mark’s Church.

Mr Naizehi, who is studying for A-levels and plans to start his own business after school, said: “Recently, one of my friends was arrested and in the back of the police van with other friends and one of the officers.

“The officer in the front said: ‘Which one’s Ahmed?’ and the other one responded: ‘They’re all Ahmeds, that’s why they’re in here.’ I was so angry when I heard that.

"You get friendly officers but then that ruins it all because it’s fragile.”

Jamain said some officers routinely “taunted” young people by using Caribbean slang.

“The other day some of them were saying ‘You are a badman’ in a foreign accent and making fun of how we speak,” he said.

“If you’re disrespecting us, how can we respect you?”

Gerald Dinnegan, who has ambitions to be a police officer, said: “We would all agree you do get some good police officers, but too often they behave too much like a force and not enough like a service.”

Islington Police say no formal allegations have been made, but Det Chief Supt Campbell insisted: “I want to be absolutely clear in that I will not – and the Metropolitan Police Service will not – tolerate any form of racist or discriminatory behaviour from a police officer or staff.
“We expect the highest standards of professionalism and conduct at all times.

“There is no place for racist officers or those who seek to discriminate in the Met.

"We will take action to get them out of the police.

“The vast majority of our officers and staff are extremely professional, want to do a good job and come to work daily to provide a good service to Londoners.

"We encourage anyone to report officers and staff who do not meet our standards.

“I want to be clear in my determination that we will provide a professional, qualitative and impartial service and that we will do all we can to prevent crime by working together with the community and partners to keep residents and visitors safe.

“We will work hard to identify, arrest and seek the prosecution of those who cause harm and other crimes and anti-social behaviour in our community.”

The Andover youths revealed how they face “postcode discrimination” from employers.

Jack is currently working in a restaurant but hopes to join the RAF to train as a pilot next year.

He said living on the estate had given him skills Oxbridge graduates don’t have.
“But employers don’t see that,” said the waiter, who has four A-levels.

“I once applied for a job and the employer said they were looking for someone like me.

"Five minutes later he Googled my address on the computer.

"He started saying: ‘Oh you’re from that estate are you?’ and suddenly there were no more jobs left.

"I wasn’t a different person, just he was viewing me differently.”

“If you told most people to work from 6am to 10pm every day they might say no.

"I wouldn’t, I’d promise to top that and arrive at 5am and leave at 11pm.

"I want to make something of myself, but there are barriers.”

Youth worker James Aidoo, 25, who runs the church’s evening sessions said posters on bus stops should show successful young people from estates, rather than youths carrying knives, and that Metropolitan police funding of youth trips to cinemas and other attractions would help.

“They used to do that,” he said. “It would go a long way.

"But young people in our community need an aim, and opportunities to get there.

"If you are on the streets selling drugs or doing something else you are using skills.

“What we need to see are paid apprenticeships that tap into those skills.

"There are plenty of success stories on Andover, but we need to hear more about them, and the talent here needs opportunity in the same way that people in Highgate have access to those networks and aspirations.”

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